September 01, 2014

2:42 PM | Happy Labor Day!
This year, I dedicate this song to adjunct professors of chemistry. Your contributions are appreciated by me.To my American readers, a very happy Labor Day to you and your family. To people in the rest of the world, happy Monday! 
2:37 PM | The full 2014 ACS Salary Survey is out
A brief note on the last day of a holiday weekend, courtesy of Sophie Rovner and this week's C&EN:Unemployment is easing in the U.S. economy as a whole, and that trend is reflected in the chemical sector, according to the latest figures compiled by the American Chemical Society. “The unemployment rate of our domestic chemistry workforce is once again under 3.0%, as it was prior to the economic downturn of 2008–09,” notes Elizabeth C. McGaha, assistant director of […]

August 31, 2014

4:09 PM | Ruin is forever: When the precautionary principle is justified
If you are dead, you cannot mount a comeback. If all life on Earth were destroyed by, say, a large comet impact, there would be no revival. Ruin is forever.The destruction of all life on Earth is not 10 times worse than the destruction of one-tenth of all life on Earth. It is infinitely worse. A fall of 1 foot is not one-tenth as damaging to the human body as a fall of 10 feet, nor is it one-hundredth as damaging as a fall of 100 feet (which is very likely to be lethal). Walking down a stairway […]
9:46 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Daniel McFadden on how people make choices. Not that new but only spotted this week – Gerd Gigerenzer has a great rants on statistics. (HT: Noah Smith) Forty per cent of modern Chinese are patrilineal descendants of only three super-grandfathers from 6,000 years ago. (HT: Carl Zimmer) Anti-marijuana advocates funded by drug companies. […]

August 30, 2014

2:11 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice: the nerdy edition
Aunt Pythia is ginormously and ridonkulously excited to be here. She just got back from a nifty bike ride to the other side of the Hudson and took this picture of this amazing city on this amazing day: OK, so full disclosure. Aunt Pythia kind of blew her load, so to speak, on the sex questions […]

August 29, 2014

5:38 PM | A dramatic reading of the Org Syn prep for Evans phenylalanine-derived oxazolidinone
As part of the Acts of Whimsy for this year's Geek Girl Con, I decided to make a recording of the synthesis of my favorite Evans chiral auxiliary. I hope you enjoy.Please, if you can, feel free to donate to the cause. Just like last year, if you donate and tell me, I will offer you a handwritten thank you note and for any donation of $20 or more, I will write a post of your choosing.Have a great Labor Day weekend! 
5:31 PM | A little podcast fun
I happened to show up at ACS San Francisco a couple of weeks back and there was a tiny little get-together at a Starbucks near the Moscone Center. This is what happens when you're having fun with an iPad:Thanks to Philip Skinner, Matt Hartings, See Arr Oh, Jess the Chemist, Rachel Pepling, Chris McCarthy and Stephen Davey for making it fun! 
5:05 PM | Hmmmm: BU law school economist says 'skills gap' is real
From my weekly dose of pain (a Google alert for "skills gap"), an article worth a close read by me, other skeptics of the 'skills gap' in the Harvard Business Review blog by economist James Bessen:"To the contrary, there is evidence that select groups of workers have been had sustained wage growth, implying persistent skill shortages. Some specific occupations such as nursing do show sustained wage growth and employment growth over a couple decades. And there is more general evidence of […]
3:30 PM | Anyone heard anything about PPG?
Courtesy of ACC Smartbrief, I see the Pittsburgh Business Times says that PPG is expanding/hiring?: ...Beyond the Allison Park facility and the company's namesake headquarters located in downtown Pittsburgh, PPG operates additional research centers in Springdale, Monroeville and Harmar, as well as the company's newly established Architectural Coatings North American Headquarters in Cranberry Township. Kahle said PPG is adding over 300 technical and non-technical jobs to Pennsylvania […]
12:18 PM | The bad teacher conspiracy
Any time I see an article about the evaluation system for teachers in New York State, I wince. People get it wrong so very often. Yesterday’s New York Times article written by Elizabeth Harris was even worse than usual. First, her wording. She mentioned a severe drop in student reading and math proficiency rates statewide and attributed […]

August 28, 2014

11:37 AM | Twin studies stand up to the critique, again
The history of twin studies is littered with attempts to discredit them – such as this bit of rubbish. Yet every challenge has been met, with a couple of newish studies knocking off another. The basic idea of twin studies is that by comparing the similarity of fraternal twins to the similarity of identical twins, you can […]
11:08 AM | A decision tree for decision trees
For a while now I’ve been thinking I should build a decision tree for deciding which algorithm to use on a given data project. And yes, I think it’s kind of cool that “decision tree” would be an outcome on my decision tree. Kind of like a nerd pun. I’m happy to say that I […]
5:30 AM | Review: Happiness by Design (Paul Dolan)
Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life Hardcover, 256 pages, ISBN: 9780241003107, published 28 August 2014 Amazon / Google Books / Allen Lane Many economists balk at the mention of happiness research. I consider myself a sceptic. But people care about attaining happiness, and governments care about measuring it. And why not? There are behaviours […]

August 27, 2014

7:29 PM | Challenge accepted
That was wet. 
12:32 PM | Aise O’Neil at Gotham Comedy Club
I don’t usually blog about my kids, but my 14-year-old son has explicitly given me his blessing to post his recent stand-up performance at the Gotham Comedy Club: The look he gives the audience at the end is my favorite part.

August 26, 2014

7:12 PM | PSA for professors and other supervisors with access to social media
Just in case you didn't know, it's not helpful to call out your direct reports on social media, especially platforms that lend themselves to screen shots and anonymous image sharing sites.(Should a professor or other boss-type entities friend their direct reports on social media? No, says CJ.) 
7:06 PM | August 2014 Chemical Activity Barometer slowing a bit, but still grows
From the American Chemistry Council: The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), continued to see moderated upward growth this month, with a 0.2 percent gain over July as measured on a three-month moving average (3MMA). This represented a deceleration from the 0.4 percent gain in July and an average gain of 0.5 percent for the first six months of 2014...  “Consistent with other recent economic reports, […]
11:20 AM | The Stubborn Hope of an Urban Teacher
Yesterday I read a book written by Carole Marshall which she called Stubborn Hope: Memoir of an Urban Teacher (thanks to Ernest Davis for sending it to me). Just to give you an idea of how quick this read is, I read it before class. I think it took about 1 hour and 10 minutes in […]

August 25, 2014

7:57 PM | Well, it had to happen
I see my coauthor Alex Goldberg has challenged me (along with Derek Lowe and Carmen Drahl) to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I am honored to be included among them. Guess I'll get a bucket and a towel. 
3:10 PM | This week's C&EN:
Some interesting articles:This week's cover story on food adulterants, by Marc Reisch (would have been nice to hear more about NMR of food.) Glenn Hess has a write-up of the MV Cape Ray's completed destruction of Syrian chemical weapons precursors. This story about dengue fever in Taiwan following a petrochemical pipeline explosion is interesting and a bit unexpected. (story by Jean-François Tremblay)Jyllian Kemsley covers proposed new definitions of the mole and the […]
11:20 AM | Gilian Tett gets it very wrong on racial profiling
Last Friday Gillian Tett ran a profoundly disturbing article in the Financial Times entitled Mapping Crime – Or Stirring Hate? (hat tip Marcos Carreira), which makes me sad to say this given how much respect I normally have for her regarding her coverage of the financial crisis. In the article, Tett describes the predictive policing model used by the Chicago […]

August 24, 2014

3:04 PM | Why does anyone even care about the future?
The human community spans not only space but time. Naturally, we include in our community those closest to us--family and friends--and then in concentric circles of affiliation our co-workers; our fellow churchgoers (if we do that kind of thing); members of a civic group, a book club or a sports team to which we belong; the inhabitants of our town or city, of course; and our country. Some people even count themselves as citizens of the world.And, while we tend to reserve our deepest feelings […]
5:48 AM | A dramatic reading of "A comprehensive overview of chemical-free consumer products"
As part of the Acts of Whimsy for this year's Geek Girl Con, I decided to make a recording of the paper that Alex Goldberg and I submitted to Nature Chemistry. I hope you enjoy. (One more dramatic reading on its way.)Please, if you can, feel free to donate to the cause. Just like last year, if you donate and tell me, I will offer you a handwritten thank you note and for any donation of $20 or more, I will write a post of your choosing.

August 23, 2014

2:52 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice: the sex edition
Holy crap it’s already been an eventful morning and it’s not even 10am. Aunt Pythia blew a bike tire on the George Washington Bridge and had to walk back across and find the 1 train near 181st street, which was hidden from view. Seriously, it was. Now, if Aunt Pythia ever asked for advice herself, […]

August 22, 2014

7:20 PM | The worst evaluation you will read today
For those of you who remember/were alive for the Reagan years, you will be interested to see that Paul Laxalt's grandson, Adam Laxalt, is running for Nevada attorney general. Someone has chosen to leak an evaluation of his time at a Las Vegas law firm to a journalist, Jon Ralston. It's... not complimentary*: The assessment by the Lewis & Roca Associate Evaluation and Compensation Committee (AECC) suggested that Laxalt attend seminars to "address basic legal principles" because of his […]
7:00 PM | I'm trying, I'm trying
Another busy week means not much blogging. I'm reminded for some reason of this passage in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential:...I worked with a chef who used to step behind the line to a dirty cook's station in the middle of the rush to explain why the offending cook was falling behind. He'd press his palm down on the cutting board, which was littered with peppercorns, spattered sauce, bits of parsley, breadcrumbs and the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates quickly on a station if […]
11:19 AM | Jeff Larson kills it at the Lede Program
So, Jeff Larson from ProPublica came yesterday to talk to us at the Lede Program, and damn that guy is awesome. First, he showed us his work with the ProPublica Message Machine, where they first crowdsourced, then reverse engineered Obama’s political targeting algorithm. Turns out they used decision trees for that, so we got to talk about […]
10:44 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Side effect warnings increase sales by building trust. Similar effects for disclosing conflicts of interest (ungated pdf). Absorbing information on paper versus kindle. Even without digital search, I often find it easier to find favourite passages in the physical form. Humans aren’t the only ones fighting wars. I pointed out a couple […]

August 21, 2014

5:49 PM | An intern is going to be executed at dawn for this one
In the American Chemistry Council's daily newsletter, a link to a "Minding the Campus" piece by Peter Sacks titled "WHAT STEM CRISIS? THERE ISN’T ONE." Surely someone has screwed up here, sending this piece out.I like the cut of Mr. Sacks' jib.(The article itself is a good summary of material covered here and elsewhere.) 
1:33 PM | When the story IS the interaction with the public
Here at the Lede Program we’ve been getting lots of different perspectives on what data journalism is and what it could be. As usual I will oversimplify for the sake of clarity, and apologies in advance to anyone I might offend. The old school version of data journalism, which is called computer assisted reporting, maintains […]
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